To use a time capsule analogy, the month was February and the year was 1970.
Richard Nixon was still in his first term in the White House, Watergate was nothing more than the name of a hotel in Washington, a young coach by the name of Don Shula had just been named the new boss of the Miami Dolphins, and if you had told people that one day they would be able to take out a phone out of their pocket and dial anybody, anywhere in the world at anytime, they might have tried to have you committed.
That’s also when a 23-year-old young man named Hayward Randolph walked through the front door of Miami Springs High School, itself having only been open for five years, and sat down at his desk, ready to teach young students all about social studies, world history and American government.
And guess what happened a few weeks ago when the school bell rang for the first day of school at MSSH?
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A much older gentleman walked into Room 237, plunked down his lesson plan on his desk and introduced himself to his new students.
That’s right, Hayward Randolph is now 67 years young and there he is, every morning, walking through that same front door of the same school he has been walking through for the last five-plus decades.
The saying goes, “If the walls could only talk.” At Miami Springs High School, you don’t need to go to the walls. You can just walk down to Room 237 and talk to Springs High School’s version of a walking human history book.
“I really enjoy not only teaching but just the interaction I’ve always had with the students and appreciating the times that you can have a real impact on their lives,” said Randolph. “I enjoy what I do and know and the whole atmosphere at Miami Springs has made it such a good school to work at, from the students to the administration, which is why I’ve never moved from here. If I had been at another school, perhaps I would not have remained there for all these years the way I have at Springs.”
If not for a twist of fate, Randolph might have never even wound up in South Florida, let along Springs High.
“The only reason I came down to South Florida in the late ’60s was that Florida Memorial College, which was in St. Augustine at the time, moved its school down to Opa-locka, where it is now,” said Randolph, who grew up in a small town (Lawky) southwest of Jacksonville. “I literally had just one semester left and when I found out that if I had tried to finish at another school in the area that a lot of my credits would not have transferred over, I decided to come down here and finish up my degree.”
Soon after came a one-year stint in the U.S. Army Reserves and not long after he got out, came an interview with then-Springs High principal Alex Bromir.
“I’m not sure if I just impressed the heck out of them or they were just desperate for teachers, but they hired me on the spot,” Randolph said with a laugh. “Originally my intention was to only stay down there for a year or so because my mother wanted me to move back up and be closer to her.”
But, as it can do with some folks, the small-town atmosphere of Miami Springs and the high school itself, grew on Randolph.
“Most of my college friends stayed down here and not only did I fall in love with Springs High, but South Florida as well,” said Randolph. “And, to be honest, it was a way of getting away from small Southern towns where segregation was still very rampant. Having been raised during the ’50s and ’60s, I grew up in segregation and been in segregated schools. I went through all of it, sitting in the back of the bus, separate water fountains, all of that, and when I arrived down here, it was like a different world and I really didn’t want to go back to that other world.”
And so away he went.
Through seven presidential administrations, the advent of something called a computer and subsequently something called the Internet, to beepers to cell phones, Hayward Randolph watched the world change before his very eyes while every day parking his car at Miami Springs High School to teach his kids something new.
We checked with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Department, which could neither confirm nor deny that Randolph could be the longest-tenured teacher at one school uninterrupted in Miami-Dade County history and perhaps even the state.
“I’m blessed because not everybody gets to do in life what they love to do and I’ve always loved teaching kids from the very first day I did it,” said Randolph.
“Mr. Randolph is first and foremost a true gentleman in every sense of the word,” said MSSH principal Ed Smith, Randolph’s ninth boss during his long tenure. “His youthful energy and passion for his vocation are an example to everyone on the staff. Throughout his 44-year labor of love as a teacher he has impacted the lives of literally thousands of students. His legacy here at Miami Springs Senior and his legacy in the Miami-Dade County Public School District will not be defined by the awards or accolades he received and it won’t be defined by the stellar reviews for teaching that he received from the nine principals he has worked with.
“His legacy will not even be one that is remembered by a plaque placed on a wall. Instead, Mr. Hayward Randolph's legacy will live on for decades to come in the hearts and minds of the nearly 10,000 students that have had the privilege and good fortune to have had him as a teacher in a career that can be described as nothing less than stellar.”
Asked about dealing with the evolution and changes in attitudes when dealing with kids during all this time, Randolph was reflective.
“It was definitely easier back then,” he said bluntly. “One reason I stayed was because the type of students we had at that time at this school, it was much much easier to teach then. Students were more focused. When you assigned homework, they did the homework. Today, it’s a little bit more of a challenge and you have to be a little more creative. There was no real technology back in those days, so I’ve had to adapt to the students in terms of the new technology but at the same time, the new attitude.
“I guess for some reason most of today’s students — they feel that they don’t necessarily have to put forth as much effort as compared to the students in the past. Back in the earlier days, things were different in the sense that there was more responsibility. Nowadays, there are so many things that kids can do that is so much easier with the advancement of an electronic world and the world of social media that the focus is different.”
But when asked what his biggest reward was for doing what he’s been doing for the last 44 years, Randolph did not hesitate.
“The biggest thing that has kept me going is kids coming back and telling me the impact I had on their lives and I get to see what a success they are,” said Randolph. “It reinvigorates me each and every day and makes me feel stronger and stronger and to the point where I feel better now than maybe I did 40 years ago.”
But, when asked about when the world of being a “retired educator” was coming, Randolph admitted that the time to lock his briefcase away in his closet is rapidly approaching.
“I’m pretty sure this is going to be my last year,” said Randolph. “It’s been a great life experience for me and I feel very blessed to have been surrounded by so many wonderful people along the way.”